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01.03.19

DfT must improve governance over rail industry or passengers face another year of ‘hell’, warn MPs

Rail passengers are facing another year of “hell” with major timetable changes and engineering works unless the government improves its governance of the rail sector, MPs have warned.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has published a damning report warning that further changes for the rail industry means “2019 looks to be another difficult year.”

The report from MPs said that government management must improve “considerably” ahead of these changes, and reflected that passengers had suffered “significant financial and emotional costs” during last year’s problems.

The MP’s review stated: “We are concerned that the department is still not adequately protecting taxpayers’ money” over its management of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), and criticised a lack of transparency over the company’s profit rate from the franchise.

The PAC report also criticised the government’s “failure to learn the lessons from previous programmes,” which had meant its strategic management had not evolved quickly enough to execute complicated projects such as Crossrail – which has been plagued by delays and spiralling costs.

The review said the department must now set out its profit cap for GTR, and set out how it plans to capture and learn lessons from programme delivery so it avoids repeating the same mistakes such as those on Crossrail.

Other major criticisms in the report include highlighting that the rail industry has been too slow to improve accessibility for passengers with disabilities, and MPs also said it is “unacceptable” that passengers still don’t know when improvements to the failed East Coast franchise will be delivered.

The PAC said the DfT still had “a way to go” before train operators and Network Rail are able to successfully work together in way that minimises disruption, but did recognise that a “root and branch” review of the railways was under way.

New timetables implemented last May caused “unprecedented disruption” across the south-east and north of England, with 46% of all rail services affected.

The ORR found that Network Rail, DfT, Chris Grayling, and train operators were all at fault in a scathing report in September, claiming that “no one took charge.”

The PAC report said that even more timetable changes are expected 12 months on from the chaos, and more changes are also due in December.

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